The highest administrative court in Colombia on Tuesday maintained a precautionary measure on the use of fracking for exploration in unconventional deposits, preventing for now initiating decisive pilot projects for the country to increase its production and reserves of oil and gas.
Soil drilling machine for oil extraction. / Reference image / Pixabay
Reuters | Julia Cobb, Nelson Bocanegra y Luis Jaime Acosta
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Leer en español: Tribunal de Colombia mantiene medida cautelar contra el fracking
The decision of six magistrates of the State Council, which has the task of deciding on administrative matters, is adjacent to a larger case on the use of the hydraulic fracturing technique, which breaks rock formations with pressurized liquid.
In Colombia, oil exploration and exploitation activities are not carried out with fracking, but the government of President Iván Duque is in favor of promoting a broad technical discussion, despite strong opposition from left-wing politicians, communities and environmentalists.
Regulations for the development of unconventional oil deposits were temporarily suspended in the South American country at the end of last year, amid an ongoing lawsuit filed against the Ministry of Mines and Energy by an environmental lawyer.
"Before the Plenary Chamber of the Third Section of the State Council, the paper that proposed giving free access to the exercise of fracking was defeated, while defining whether its regulation is legal or not," said a statement from the high court, not to mention more explanations.
Despite the fracking boom in oil and gas production in the United States, environmental activists oppose the argument that it pollutes water and produces earthquakes.
State oil company Ecopetrol is acting as a co-defendant in the largest lawsuit and had asked the court to lift the suspension measure in order to begin the assembly of a pilot project.
The company announced that it has $ 500 million to invest in the exploration of unconventional deposits over the next three years, but the evaluation of its request to start a pilot project was suspended by the environmental licensing authority in July pending the decision. of the court on the reinstatement of regulations.
In March, Colombia filed the environmental licensing procedures requested by US ConocoPhillips and Canada's Canacol Energy for two fracking oil exploration projects in an area with high potential for unconventional deposits.
Colombia, which reached a production of 865,127 barrels per day of oil in 2018, has a potential of between 3,000 million and 9,000 million barrels of oil equivalent in unconventional deposits, that is, between 2 and 6 times the current reserves, according to the government.
A commission of experts recommended to the government at the beginning of the year to implement pilot projects in unconventional deposits with fracking under strict environmental monitoring, before deciding whether the controversial technique can be widely used.